February is here, and honestly, it is my very least favorite month. Just the word itself conjures up a cold, dreary, and gray image in my head, and this February is no different.
Here in North Texas, we just endured an unprecedented arctic blast, which brought not only multiple inches of snow, but also busted pipes, power outages, and little access to heat or food. This trauma, along with the global pandemic, has not only changed our lives but our relationships too. The stress of living through a pandemic, social unrest, and a tumultuous election while dealing with our day-to-day concerns about our finances, career, parenting, health, and families has led to more strain in relationships.
However, there is still an opportunity to strengthen your relationships, despite all of the stress.
Recognize the stressors.
The past year, couples have dealt with more stressors than ever, ranging from a lack of alone time to disagreements on the pandemic risks, financial strain, and access to electricity, food, and water during the snowpocalypse. In lower stress phases of life, partners often cut each other more slack for bad moods or pet peeves. When life is running more smoothly, we may find it easier to tolerate a person's bad attitude. However, under stress, we struggle to empathize with our partners. We create a scoreboard of wrongdoings, and resentment can build.
If couples take the time to recognize the stressors they are experiencing, partners can be more empathetic and turn towards each other for help.
Check anger levels
It is okay and expected to have disagreements in relationships as you are different people. However, clear communication is critical for couples to work through these conflicts. The emotion brought into a conversation is a clear indicator of how the interaction will turn out. Before engaging in a contentious discussion, it is essential to check your emotional state and the tone of voice that comes with it. Angry conversations can be disastrous, and both partners will feel unsatisfied and unheard.
Make time for fun
When dealing with massive amounts of stress, it can be challenging to remember to have fun. However, couples that have fun together feel more connected and satisfied in their relationship. With the pandemic throwing us all into survival mode, partners also can feel as though they are stuck in a rut, so adding novelty into the relationship can help create an atmosphere similar to the one you had when you began dating. Try something new to both of you, such as learning a different language, cooking a multi-step, multi-ingredient meal, or playing a board game or hide-and-seek in your home or at the park.
Send Rituals of Gratitude
Gratitude begets gratitude---so the more thankful you are, the more reason you will find to be grateful. Because relationships are based on connection, creating a ritual of gratitude helps couples find appreciation for each other. Try leaving handwritten notes, create a thank you gift, or spend time each evening sharing something that happened for which you're grateful.
Take care of Yourself
It can be difficult to be happy and fulfilled in a relationship with your partner if you feel negatively about yourself. A relationship can only be as healthy as the least healthy person in it, so it is vital that you maintain care for yourself. Invest into your hobbies, take time away from your partner, spend 30 minutes daily focused on self-care, and work on speaking kindly to yourself. These little things can boost your mood, which will then positively impact your relationships.
If you're struggling, seek help. Sharp Wellness offers individual, couples, family, and group therapy to help support you through these chaotic times. Contact us now.
Owner and Senior Therapist